Okay so we saw Ghostbusters last night and I began writing this as soon as I got home. I can tell you I don’t have anything brilliant or insightful to say about the film yet. There’s no layered deconstruction or analysis in this piece. But what I can offer is a lifelong fan’s totally SPOILER-FREE thoughts on the latest incarnation of Ghostbusters, staring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.
Before I go any further, let’s talk about how Ghostbusters had garnered a ridiculous amount of negative “fan” reactions since the moment it was announced. The anger and animosity has been centered around two specific targets. First, some people were irrationally upset that the film features four women as opposed to four men or a mixed gender crew. That’s a nonissue and not worthy of a response. At no point in the film do you think/feel, “Wow! Look at those girl Ghostbusters!” They are simply the Ghostbusters. Second, people are upset this isn’t a direct continuation of the original film in cast as well as timeline/dimension/narrative. I can understand that. I too wished for Ghostbusters III for many, many years. But, for me, the moment we lost Harold Ramis that wish went with him. Under no circumstances would I want Ghostbusters III without him. Ivan Reitman himself has said, “If I was going to do Ghostbusters, I had to do it with the Ghostbusters. I was not interested in doing another Ghostbusters movie without Harold and with Bill sort of dragging his heels.” So, it was time to move on to a new team. I think he’s right.
I LOVE the Ghostbusters and I love the IDEA of Ghostbusters. Since we can’t have Peter, Ray, Winston, and Egon, I say bring on the newbies. Why should the fun stop? Now we have a new team, a new adventure, and the potential for many new adventures…while always maintaining the sacred nature of the original. As far as I’m concerned, everyone wins. We can never have the original lineup again so let’s find a new sort of fun with a new team. And the mantle of Ghostbusters couldn’t be in more capable hands.
What I found so perfect about the movie is how this latest incarnation of Ghostbusters is familiar…but in its loose framework only. That, for me, is what makes it work so well. Abby Yates, Erin Gilbert, Patty Tolan, and Jillian Holtzmann are brand new characters with their own unique personalities and relationships. You’re not sitting there saying, “Oh that’s supposed to be the new Ray.” That’s a brilliant approach because, if they tried anything else, it couldn’t work. There can only ever be one Ray Stantz and it’s Dan Aykroyd!
The film finds high school friends (and ghost enthusiasts) Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert reunited after years of working apart. Erin’s focused her time and talent on more mainstream (and respected) scientific pursuits while Abby’s continued their work with the paranormal alongside her new partner Jillian Holtzmann. The three scientists are pulled into investigating ghost sightings around New York City where they meet MTA employee Patty Tolan who’s seen a ghost haunting the subway. Bringing an intimate knowledge of the city’s history, Patty joins the team and, as the psychokinetic energy and paranormal activity in the city begins to escalate, it’s up to the Ghostbusters to answer the call. The Ghostbusters have some fun new toys at their disposal too!
Oh, and Chris Hemsworth plays their secretary Kevin. He is hilarious. I know absolutely everything written about this film so far has mentioned this but it bears repeating. Seriously, between Ghostbusters and his role in the new Vacation, this guy has proven he has some SERIOUS comedy chops. I enjoyed him more as Kevin than I do as Thor! And I love his vision of Thor!
The whole film is hilarious actually. All of the Ghostbusters are fun, quirky characters. As I said above, they’re not reinventions of 1984’s originals. Rather, they are their own dynamic characters, on their own journeys with their own relationships. They play off of each other so well too! Perhaps the most important part of the original Ghostbusters is the chemistry between the guys. While the nature of the relationships and the tone of their banter is unique and natural to these characters, the chemistry is just as strong. And the jokes come so fast! This film fully embraces its comedy nature with rapid fire one-liners and a few hilarious physical comedy bits too. I found myself laughing over the next line/joke more than once during the film and I wasn’t the only one in the theatre doing so. Ghostbusters merits a second (and third and fourth and fifth and sixth…) viewing as much for the fun and exciting story as it does to catch the jokes you missed the first time around. And the quotes! There’s a lot of quotable lines in this thing. So multiple viewings are required if for no other reason than for building up quote knowledge!
Let’s be honest, you can never recapture the magic that was 1984’s Ghostbusters. It was lightning in a bottle and it will, deservedly, live on forever as a classic. Even with the original group back together for the traditional sequel in 1989’s Ghostbusters II people were disappointed. I recently got over my 25+ years of deep abiding fear of that film to watch it again as an adult. And do you know what? Ghostbusters II is a lot better than it’s ever given credit for! But for most it still pales in comparison to the original. I think a more traditional sequel or a direct reboot would always be doomed to fail. But 2016’s Ghostbusters is able to shine brilliantly in its own right by departing from the original save the basic outline of the plot (ghosts are popping up over New York City and a team assembles to try and deal with it) and scattered heartfelt nods to the originals.
The plot is unique. The characters are fresh. There movie has many surprises in how the story plays out as well as wonderful allusions to the source material. The cameos from the original cast do not disappoint. And I love, love, love how they use the Ghostbusters theme throughout the movie. I’m not one to normally comment on music (that’s my brother David’s job – being a musician he gets the technical stuff) but I was impressed with how the theme – in a variety of forms – kept popping up. Most of all, it’s just a FUN movie. So, yes, I loved Ghostbusters and I hope we’ll get many equally exciting sequels. My mind’s already lost in contemplating possibilities!
Art will always be subjective. That’s literally the only way we, as human beings, can experience and understand it. To say art (be it a book, movie, song, painting, etc.) is definitively and objectively good or bad is always going to be fallacious. It doesn’t work that way. It can’t. So I can only speak for my own experience. But I can say I’m a lifelong fan of the Ghostbusters. I hold the characters, their world, their mythology – and especially the original film – very close to my heart. I love the Ghostbusters. I have for over thirty years. I’ve grown-up with Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter. And as a fan who went in with ever-rising excitement and very (perhaps unfairly) high expectations I can honestly say Abby, Erin, Patty, and Holtzmann’s Ghostbusters far exceeded all I hoped for. It isn’t the original…but then again, it shouldn’t be. I love THIS Ghostbusters in its own way. It’s earned my affection by being an excellent film and a fun way to carry on the tradition of ghostbusting I’ve always loved. I’m already planning my future viewings! If I’m lucky, I’ll be at the theatre seeing it again when you’re reading this!